Stephen Drew of the Boston Red Sox attempts to gather the ball to complete a double play over Austin Jackson of the Detroit Tigers in the second inning of Game 4. Jackson was still called out though Drew received the ball while off of second base. (Michael Ivins / Getty Images)
Detroit — With the gloomy weather outside forcing the Tigers indoors during what would’ve been their batting-practice slot Thursday afternoon, Jose Iglesias picked up a wooden bat and, just like that, a hockey game broke out with one of the many little, adorable rug rats who often occupy the Tigers clubhouse.
Not that Iglesias, Detroit’s defensive wizard, is a big hockey fan.
Nor did he ever consider that a possible career.
“Na,” he said, smiling, and shaking his head.
He’s just fine, thank you very much, as a major league shortstop — a position, by the way, at the center of a highly interesting play that few folks are talking about.
Yes, during Game 4, the Tigers got a break when Dustin Pedroia bobbled Iglesias’ hard bases-loaded smash in the second inning. But the Red Sox caught a big break, too.
Because Pedroia momentarily lost the ball, it threw off shortstop Stephen Drew’s timing arriving at second base — and by the time the ball got there, he already was well past and off the base before firing to first. Some replays show him a foot or more from the bag.
Drew still got the out call; second-base ump Dan Iassogna didn’t bust him.
It’s a non-call often referred to as the “neighborhood” play — as in, the shortstop’s in the neighborhood, so close enough. But Drew? Yeah, he was in the neighborhood like Paw Paw is in the neighborhood of Port Huron.
“He was way off,” Iglesias said, his eyes wide. “It’s a tough play. Kind of like a timing play. But he was real off, he was off.
“He just tried to turn it, which is a great idea. And he got the call.”
Iglesias was running to first base on that particular play, so he didn’t see the exchange at second. But following the game, when he watched the slow-motion replay, he was surprised just how far Drew was away from second base.
The Tigers didn’t gripe about the call, probably because it happened so fast, they had just scored a big run — and they had bigger things on their mind, like trying to knot up the American League Championship Series at two wins apiece, as they eventually did.
Next year, though, when replay expands, that could be a play that goes under review.
Ramon Santiago, a longtime Tigers middle infielder, defended the umpires, pointing out that on that play, they have to look at two places to make the correct call — at the glove, for the ball, and down at the feet. Tough to do that at the same time.
“It’s so quick,” he said. “Everything happens so fast.”
Santiago, though, hadn’t seen a replay.
So a reporter showed him the still image of just where Drew caught the ball.
“Oooh, wow!” Santiago said. “Like that is obvious right there.”
Middle infielders are taught to get one out first, when trying for a double play. That’s why so many of them hang in there even to take hard slide — even though it can be plenty dangerous, as Tigers second baseman Omar Infante will attest. He missed about a month after a July takeout slide by Colby Rasmus of the Blue Jays..
Some suspect it’s the injury risk that’s behind the leeway. If they’re off the base by a little bit, they usually get the benefit of the doubt from umpires.
Santiago said he’s been called before for not being on the base. It just doesn’t happen frequently. And, as Game 4 proved, not even always when the offense is so blatant.
“Between the lines, there are certain things that are somewhat accepted with a play that’s in the area,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “If it’s flagrant, even to the naked eye, certainly you’re going to challenge it.
“But the one thing that the umpires fall under is a lot of scrutiny. … Their abilities to make a call, having seen it one time in real-life speed, they do an excellent job.”